Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Specific Performance

I Represent a seller. I sold his home for FULL price, buyers are golden. They have removed all contingencies and we are just days from closing. Seller has now changed his mind about selling. The buyer's WANT the home, have done everything right, paid FULL price, removed all contingencies, even gave seller a closing window of 4 months...I am very concerned that my seller is going to get in trouble. The buyers have already sold their home and are in contract as well on their home. I advised my seller to contact a lawyer immediately. To make it worse, he is making over $150k in appreciation on the home in just a little over a year! He really got a ''golden'' deal. He denied most of their requests for repairs, and is not losing out. The buyers do not know a thing at this point in time. We are to close tentatively on April 3rd, although he does have till July to close but he must notify them of a closing date with 12 days (we had a 30 day window). I immediately stopped all activity on the file and advised my client in writing that he either must notify me in writing that he wants to continue, or have an attorney notify all parties of his intention to cancel. I am not sure what else to do. What can happen?

Asked on 3/17/06, 7:05 pm

5 Answers from Attorneys


Re: Specific Performance

Based upon the facts as you have described them, your seller is going to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit for specific performance. While a seller cannot compel a buyer to buy the property that is the subject of a transaction; a buyer can generally force a seller to sell. This is because real property is considered unique.

Thus, if all contingencies have been removed, financing is in place, and all that there is left to do, your seller must sell or make a financial offer to the buyers that will make them go away. But if the buyers really want the property, they can sue to get it and based upon these facts, would likely succeed.

We are real estate litigators, and if your seller needs to consult with a real estate litigator to find out if he/she has other options, have him/her call us.

Good luck.

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Answered on 3/17/06, 7:15 pm
Cynthia Beckwith Law Offices of Cynthia Beckwith

Re: Specific Performance

I agree with what the other writer said. However, to that, I would add the following: The only part that concerned me about your letter was the sentence about you having stopped work on the file. Until you receive definitive notice of cancellation from the seller (and probably signed escrow instructions), you must assume that the sale is going forward, and you must continue to do everything so your seller is in a position to close. Make sure you document your files for your own protection.

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Answered on 3/17/06, 10:54 pm

Re: Specific Performance

Litigation will likely follow. Please tell him to call me directly at 16192223504 so that I may advise.

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Answered on 3/17/06, 11:44 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Specific Performance

The previous advice is all very good and I have little to gain by interjecting myself, because I'm too far away to solicit this business.

I would, hoever, like to add that this is a good time for you, as the seller's broker, to do your client a favor by determining, through a face-to-face, hopefully heart-to=heart, discussion about why this sudden unreasonable and self-defeating attitude toward the deal. You should read up on the legal topic of specific performance as a buyer's remedy for breached real-estate sales agreements, so you can coach this seller. I'm not suggesting that you provide "legal advice," but it is crtainly within the scope of a broker's chores to advise a seller who tries to back out that he can be required to sell, and may be liable for pretty hefty damages as well.

I'd also suggest that you and the client review the dispute-resolution options checked off on the contract. An aggrieved party may be able to file suit in court, or the agreement may provide for arbitration, and in addition it may require mediation as a prerequisite to arbitration. See what boxes are checked.

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Answered on 3/18/06, 12:36 am
Daniel Harrison Berger Harrison, APC

Re: Specific Performance

Also, you have likely earned your commission whether or not the seller completes the deal.

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Answered on 3/28/06, 8:14 pm

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